Oh the shame: My college grad son is (gasp) a bartender!

A reader bemoans having a son who has graduated from college and now works a lowly bartender. Carolyn Hax offers a blunt reaction.



March 18, 2024 - 2:14 PM

Photo by Pixabay.com

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My son is a college graduate with a job as a bartender. I get embarrassed telling people what he does when they ask. Help me.

— Embarrassed

Embarrassed: “He’s a bartender.” Just say it, shoulders squared. Fake it till you feel it.

It’s real work, and I’m glad and grateful for everyone who’s good at it.

Half the people you tell will envy him, 100 percent won’t care as much as you do, the slim minority who judge him as beneath them are jerks — and anyone who stops a moment to think about it knows that a college degree isn’t (just) about getting a so-called professional job.

It is (also) about learning how to think critically and how to be part of a diverse and interesting community and how to challenge oneself. All of these are available outside the college experience, obviously — plus people can get through college successfully while achieving zero mind-expansion — but mind-expansion is in fact the commonly accepted point of an education.

Being embarrassed just tells people you don’t get this. Instead, be proud that your son did the work, and be proud that he’s finding his own way in the world.

I hope you take this reader’s thoughts to heart:

∙ Please rethink this attitude. I guarantee your son is picking up on it and putting unnecessary pressure on himself to “succeed” by your terms. I had parents like that, where I was instilled to believe that things such as waiting tables and bartending were beneath me, so when I graduated, I had so. much. anxiety. that I didn’t have a “real job.” Instead of doing something sensible and waiting tables or doing odd jobs until I figured it out, I ended up applying to graduate school for a master’s degree I didn’t care about and was completely unprepared for. I ended up $50,000 in debt because I grew up in a household that didn’t respect work that wasn’t a 9-to-5. Please don’t do this to your children.

July 7, 2023
June 18, 2020
June 10, 2020
April 20, 2018